The art of craft

BakeryandSnack Chat Podcast: ‘If you’re a qualified skilled baker, you’ll never be out of a job’

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

BakeryandSnack Chat Podcast: ‘If you’re a qualified skilled baker, you’ll never be out of a job’

Related tags Scottish Bakers Ukraine Apprenticeship Bakers trendspotting Scottish Baker of the Year

Alasdair Smith, CEO of Scottish Bakers, believes it’s a most rewarding pathway for young people entering a new profession, for someone wanting to change careers or for an entrepreneur keen on starting their own venture.

Scottish Bakers has a steadfast and glorious history in supporting the sector for the past 130 years and will maintain this path while people continue to knead and create life-sustaining breads and other delectable treats.

However, according to Smith, like every other sector in the economy, recruitment remains a big challenge.

“I think we’re still recruiting bakery apprenticeships and seeing new talent coming on boards … so that’s the good news,”​ he told BakeryandSnacks, noting there is a recruitment squeeze out there, so always room for more to be done to push a career in bakery as a rewarding pathway.

He contends that as a qualified skilled baker, a person will never be out of a job – be it at the beginning of a career, starting a new business or even returning to work.

The value of experience

In fact, the value of experience is certainly celebrated. This was highlighted by the swathe of retired veterans recruited on the panel of judges for the Scottish Baker of the Year Awards, of which I was most honoured to have been part of this year.

“We do need technical experts to advise on the quality of the bake, the composition, the structure – a whole range of technical aspects – and we find nobody better than these seasoned veterans to do so,”​ said Smith.

“Every section [referring to the various categories under the annual awards] has a technical judge to provide that bit of unique insight.

“What I find really fascinating is that when we have new judges – and we had a bunch of new judges this year – they all go away talking about how much they have learned about baking. They thought they were just going to eat a lot of cake or bread and, but actually, they've learnt about crumb structure and baking levels and all sorts of things they could never have imagined.

“So, those veterans who support us year after year are really important for the credibility of the competition.”

Why join Scottish Bakers?

Beyond the glitter and enthusiasm around its annual competitions – Scottish Baker of the Year and the World Championship Scotch Pie Awards – the industry association is hands on and instrumental in supporting the interests of the Scottish bakery trade. This runs the gamut from influencing policies, to offering advice on things like employment law and food safety, down to items like a discounted vehicle breakdown service.

Like many others, Scottish Bakers is doing its bit to help out with the Ukrainian conflict and urging its members to follow suit.

“We’re living through an absolutely heart-breaking situation with the conflict in in Ukraine … and are just trying to do our little bit,”​ said Smith, noting the association is raising funds for the Disasters Emergency Committee to aid efforts in the war-torn country. It has also produced a simple poster for its members to place instore to promote their own efforts to customers.

“We are encouraging all members to do whatever they can, however small.”

He does warn, though that the sharp rise in prices of key products like wheat, fats and oils will ‘inevitably’ been eventually passed on to the customer.

We chat to Smith to take a deeper dive into the state of affairs.

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